What Goes Up Must Come Down!

Spring is finally here! And with Spring comes lots of parties, celebrations, graduations, birthdays, weddings, fairs, and more! Balloons are commonly used around the world to celebrate many of the occasions listed, however, when your balloon disappears into the sky, where does it end up going?!

What goes up must come down! Balloons may look nice, but they have a number of environmental concerns associated with them. Balloons are hazards when they enter the environment and our waterways.  All released balloons, whether they are released intentionally or not, return to Earth as litter. And when it rains, all litter and trash end up down the stormdrain- which in turn lead to our waterways.

Balloons kill countless animals, cause dangerous power outages, and affect our water quality. They can even travel thousands of miles and pollute the most remote and pristine places.

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Balloons return to the land and water where they can be mistaken for food and eaten by animals. Sea turtles, dolphins, whales, fish and birds have been reported with balloons in their stomachs and ribbons and strings can lead to entanglement, causing death. Beach litter surveys have shown the amount of balloons and balloon pieces found on the beach have tripled in the past 10 years.

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The Problems

Inflated balloons that make their way back to earth or water, pose a risk for wildlife due to the high chance of becoming ingested due to attractive color or their ribbons and tassels forming the perfect trap for animals to become entangled. Sea turtles are particularly at risk because they naturally prey on jellies, which balloons can easily be mistaken for.

Balloons can travel far and often end up riding the world’s oceans or rivers. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration identifies balloons as a commonly reported source of marine debris. A report found on the website of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) titled Ocean Conservancy Beach Debris Data shows 1000’s of balloons pulled from waterways and the coast each year. The Ocean Trash Index presents state-by-state and country-by-country data about ocean trash collected and tallied by volunteers around the world on one day each year during Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup.

Cleanups alone can’t solve this pollution problem. Nevertheless, the Ocean Trash Index provides a snapshot of what’s trashing our ocean so we can work to prevent specific items from reaching the water in the first place. It is for that reason that a handful of states including but not limited to California, Connecticut, Florida, Tennessee, New York, Texas and Virginia have recently passed legislation restricting the release of balloons.

What Can I Do to Help?

There are many alternatives that will not pollute the Earth or harm animals. We can opt for reusable party & advertising décor – banners, flags, ribbon dancers, pinwheels. For memorials & fundraisers, we can plant trees, gardens or build birdhouses – actions that promote life. Perhaps organize a clean-up in a loved one’s honor or blow bubbles. Sky Lanterns are NOT a good alternative. Sky lanterns are an uncontrollable fire hazard and have sparked massive wildfires and structure fires. Falsely marketed as biodegradable, the chemically treated paper, bamboo ring, metal wires, and fuel cell can last over a year- polluting the planet & risking harm to other lives. Animals have become entangled in them or have ingested the metal parts.

Protesting or stopping a balloon release is another option. Below are some tips on how to go about stopping a balloon release:

  1. Do your homework! Check to see if balloon releases are illegal in the area. Mylar/foil balloons have a “warning” on them saying they should not be released outdoors because of their conductivity.
  2. Contact the organizer. Private message or email may be better. Offer alternatives. Click here for form letters and ideas.
  3. Contact the venue/location. 
  4. Contact city officials. City Manager, Mayor, Parks & Recreation/whoever has jurisdiction of the venue/location. If it’s a sky lantern release, also contact the fire department.
  5. Didn’t work?  You can Email Info@BalloonsBlow.org or Report a Release.

Please choose sustainable products when celebrating and be mindful of the simple choices we can make to protect the planet we all share!

Balloons Blow…Don’t Let Them Go!

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Calling all Watershed Educators!

It’s that time of year again! We’re starting the search of our new AmeriCorps Service Member for the 2019-2020 term. Gain experience planning and leading stormwater education programs and engaging 37 communities in environmental stewardship! This is also a great opportunity to see the inner workings of local government, meet people, and learn new skills related to all things stormwater! Click on the link below for more information and to apply.

CLICK HERE TO APPLY OR LEARN MORE

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Meet the bug that armors itself with shells, rocks and sticks!

Caddisflies are an ecologically diverse and important group of freshwater insects. Their larvae are sensitive to pollution and for this reason are used  as indicators of water quality. Oxygen concentration and water velocity are important to larvae, as is the chemical content of the water. Caddisflies live most of their lives in the larval state, depending on aquatic habitats to mature to adulthood.

Caddisflies gets creative in the ways they shield themselves from predators. Larvae construct cases, or homes, out of silk woven with sand grains, fragments of wood or twigs, stones, and other materials from their surroundings.

Check out some images below from freshwater insect photographer, Jan Hamrsky:

Caddisfly larvae spend up to two years in their cases before becoming adults. The cases are so pretty that some artists encourage caddisflies to spin their silk around semiprecious stones so their cases can be used as jewelry.

CWEP loves to use activities about macroinvertebrates to teach about clean water! We sometimes find caddisflies in streams, and at tabling events we let participants craft their own caddisflies.

Check out some images from CWEP @ Carrboro Day: “Make your own Caddisfly” craft!

How is CWEP celebrating Earth Day this Year?

With Earth day around this corner, CWEP is ramping up direct education efforts this week and we have a lot in store for our members!

Earth Day is an annual event celebrated on April 22. Worldwide, various events are held to demonstrate support for environmental protection. First celebrated in 1970, Earth Day now includes events in more than 193 countries, which are now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network. People march, sign petitions, meet with their elected officials, plant trees, clean up their towns and roads on this day. Corporations and governments also use it to make pledges and announce sustainability measures. Earth Days theme for 2019 is Protect Our Species.

CWEP is celebrating the week of Earth Day with MANY plans! First we headed to Middlesex Elementary on April 16th for a Water focused Earth Day of fun with the K-5th grades! We saw a total of 313 kids in one day!

We are now heading out to visit our coastal members, Havelock, New Bern, and Kinston, for the week to do programs with their schools, libraries, Parks and Rec, and after schools groups all focused on stormwater education and why we need to keep our waterways clean!

Finally, on Earth Day this coming Monday April 22nd, we will be back in Durham aiding in an EPA Science Day at Bethesda Elementary School! Then later in the week, we will be traveling to Hillsborough to table at a “Last Fridays” Earth Evening themed event on April 26th!

CWEP has a lot in store for our member communities this week and beyond! We are excited to be coming out soon.

Happy Earth Day from CWEP!

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CWEP’s Stormwater Education Campaign Giveaway!

Earlier this month, CWEP kicked off the Spring one click give-away digital campaign. Through partnership with Spectrum, our aired 30 second PSA video will re direct traffic to our website. This is a great incentive for environmentally-minded viewers to learn more about how to keep our waters clean and safe by heading to our website to learn more! The campaign will run until July, which is when winners will be announced. You can view this 30 second video here.

We would like to thank our local and green minded sponsors which include Spiffy, Green To Go, Fillaree and The Produce Box. Without you, this wouldn’t be possible! We are confident we will reach a large number of participants and encourage the public to view and interact with our stormwater education message as well as learn more about our valuable sponsors!

You can read more about the campaign and learn how to get involved here!

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7 Tips to Reduce Stormwater Pollution This Spring!

With over 10 million people living in the state of North Carolina, state residents’ day to day activities have an impact on water quality. Stormwater is surface runoff that does not soak into the ground during precipitation events (drizzle, rain, snow, and hail). As stormwater flows over neighborhoods, businesses, and streets, it picks up the trash, cigarette butts, pesticides, motor oils and other contaminants accumulated on hard surfaces and deposits them into our local creeks, rivers, and the ocean UNTREATED! Stormwater runoff is the #1 source of water pollution and the biggest threat to water quality in the state.

So what can you do? Here are some easy ways you can improve water quality this spring!

1. Don’t Over-Apply Fertilizer! Why?

Premature Plant Death

Over-application of synthetic or chemicals fertilizers can increase soil salinity and root burn in the long run, which may result in your plants not being able to properly absorb water and nutrients in the soil, leading to their untimely demise. Overuse of synthetic fertilizer can also disrupt soil chemistry and actually do damage to soils.

Harmful to Aquatic Life and Humans

When excess fertilizer gets into our storm drain system and travels into our waterways and oceans, algae blooms can form resulting in a loss of oxygen in the water. Algae blooms pose a direct threat to aquatic animals, which need to breathe just like we do!

A well-maintained, natural lawn care system requires little to no fertilizer. Talk to your local garden center about how to care for your landscape and if you must fertilize, what products you can purchase that are organic and environmentally friendly.

2. Sweep, Don’t Hose!

Sweep around your house and driveway vs. hosing to clean away the accumulated dirt and debris. When you sweep, pick up the debris and place it into the appropriate trash receptacle. Potentially impactful items and debris picked up and placed in the trash are less likely to get into the storm drain system and degrade water quality.

3. Take Your Car to A Car Wash

Spring is a great time for cleaning up inside and outside the home. However, when you spruce up your car, think of going to a local car wash vs. hosing it down at home. This actually saves water and reduces runoff to our waterways that contains soap and debris.

A standard garden hose uses about 10 gallons per minute. If you wash your car for 10 minutes, you might consume 100 gallons of water. While hosing with an automatic shut-off valve may save more water, it’s still recommended to take your car to a commercial car wash that can properly dispose of harmful runoff (debris, oil, harmful soaps, etc.). Commercial car washes also have sophisticated reclamation systems that enable them to re-use water, so they only expend approximately 9-15 gallons of water during any given wash cycle.

4. Plant Native Plants

Native plants are the foundation of a natural ecosystem. They provide biodiversity and give critters ample food and habitat, creating a sustainable ecosystem in your yard. Native plants also thrive in their “home” environment, requiring less water to thrive. Check out this list of North Carolina’s recommended native species here!

5. Make Your Landscape Water-Friendly

Consider installing green infrastructure practices like permeable pavers, rain barrels, French drains, bioswales, or reducing lawn areas altogether. When you use these practices to control the flow and sinking of water in your landscape, you’re helping to keep toxins and debris out of the storm drain system as well as capture water naturally — a WIN-WIN for you and the environment. Check out these Green Infrastructure Ideas, click here.

6. Scoop Your Pet’s Poop!

With warmer weather comes more walks with your fuzzy friend in the outdoors. Always remember to clean up after your pet’s waste and place it in the trash. Pet waste contains harmful bacteria that will wash into our waterways after a rainfall- which there is plenty of in the spring!

7. Drain Swimming Pool Safely

If you have a pool, drain it only when a test kit does not detect chlorine levels. Whenever possible, drain your pool or spa into the sanitary sewer system, where it will be treated. Also, store pool and spa chemicals in a covered area to prevent leaks and spills to the stormwater system.

Eventful Months for CWEP!

January and February have been very eventful months for CWEP! From Steering Committee meetings to Creek Week meetings to library, school, scout, STEM, and festival programs, CWEP has done it all- and we are on track to meet our goal of reaching all members before the end of June!

First, we had our quarterly Steering Committee Meeting on January 22, 2019, where we discussed program updates, direct education recaps, and reviewed our 5 year plan. In addition, CWEP recently added a new page to the website called “Steering Committee” where you can find all updated Agenda’s and Meeting Summaries! We want our partners and communities to be in the know at all times.

Secondly, our CWEP family has grown with the addition of a new Water Resource Planner who will be working closely with CWEP this year! Welcome to the team, Maya!

In addition to our successful committee meeting, CWEP also continues to participate in the monthly planning meetings pertaining to a week-long event in Durham called Creek Week. Creek Week is a time to discover and clean up local streams. It has been celebrated by Durham since 2009. It is a successful event in helping to rid trash from local creeks, as well as getting the community involved in their surrounding environment. This year, Creek Week is from March 16-23rd. Individuals can sign up for multiple events that occur during this week through this page: https://keepdurhambeautiful.org/creek-week/ CWEP has also added a new Creek Week page to the site which outlines all the creek weeks in North Carolina! CWEP will be hosting a “Canines for Clean Water” Dog Pledge event during Durham Creek Week 2019 on March 18th from 4-6 PM at Piney Wood Dog Park in Durham. Stop by with your four legged friend, sign a pledge promising to pick up dog waste, and get some treats- We hope to see you there!

CWEP has been doing a lot these past couple months- but we have even more eventful months coming up! Check out our new Calendar of Events page to see what we’re up to next! We also have a ton of new pictures out in the field that you can check out here!

Durham Creek Week 2019 Dog Pledge!

What is Creek Week?

Creek Week is a time to discover and clean up our local streams through recreational, educational, and volunteer opportunities! It has been celebrated in Durham since 2009, with 2,783 volunteers collecting 152,798 pounds of litter to date. Please refer to CWEP’s Creek Week page to learn more about Creek Week happenings throughout the state of North Carolina this coming March!

Did you know?

Did you know that pet waste contains bacteria and parasites that can pollute our waterways? Pet waste also contains high levels of nutrients that can enter our streams and lakes, contributing to harmful algae growth and invasive aquatic weeds. This harms the freshwater organisms, and produces toxins dangerous to humans and animals.

For Durham Creek Week 2019, stop by Piney Wood Dog Park and have your four-legged friend sign a pledge promising that he/she will pick up their waste! In exchange for signing the pledge, your dog will receive a copy of the pledge, some dog treats, and a biodegradable dog waste bag! To learn more about all of the events taking place during Creek Week 2019, check out Keep Durham Beautiful’s events page here.

Organized by: Triangle J Council of Governments, Clean Water Education Partnership. Contact Blair Frantz with questions at bfrantz@tjcog.org

Canines for Clean Water

The Importance of Native Plants

Native plants are trees, shrubs, flowers, grasses and other plants which occur naturally to a particular region.  These plants provide a less labor intensive and water efficient landscape which is beneficial to commercial businesses, home owners, and the environment. Conversely, an invasive plant is an exotic species that has the ability to thrive and spread aggressively outside its natural range. Plants are the first line of defense when it comes to erosion control and stormwater management. Understanding plant species’ susceptibility to water-level fluctuations and landscape pollutants will enable better stormwater detention treatment and aesthetically pleasing environments.

Native plants, in rain gardens and in landscaping in general, are preferred because they are best adapted to soil and temperature conditions in a particular area. Because they have adapted to local conditions, native plants require no fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides, or watering (once established). Native plants are also resistant to most pests and diseases and provide food and shelter of native animals. In regions with heavy clay soil, deep rooted native plants can break-up the soil better than typical varieties of lawn grass and improve clay soil’s permeability, ultimately acting as a green stormwater alternative. Trapping localized stormwater on site through the use of native plants can ensure percolation and increased filtration of nutrients entering the ground water.  The extensive and deep root systems of native plants (see image below) slow down runoff, reduce soil erosion along river and stream banks, and absorb dirty water before it gets into the nearby waterways. Greater infiltration from native plants results in better pollutant filtering and more water replenishing the aquifer- ultimately reducing flood water and stormwater impacts. In summary, utilizing native plants and trees in your business or school landscaping allows for short and long term positive effects on stormwater runoff quantity and quality. Restoring your business, household, or school with native vegetation is one of the best things to do for the environment while also saving time and money.

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The Audubon Society of North Carolina has recently expanded its native plant guide to help many cities have awareness of what they are planting. Birds, bees and butterflies are also getting a little help from Audubon North Carolina. The nonprofit conservation organization, which has offices in Corolla, Boone, Wilmington and Chapel Hill, announced Oct. 11, in time for fall planting, that its free, downloadable guide which helps identify the best plants for wildlife by habitat has been expanded from 400 to 692 native and cultivated plants that thrive in North Carolina. Everyone from home gardeners to educational institutions to landscapers to businesses are adding native-friendly plants to their backyards. The list is a single source of recommended bird- and pollinator-friendly plants that can be filtered by habitat, food source type, animals benefited, wetland status and more. Every species thrives in a different region and this resource helps planters choose a spot for the plant where it will thrive. The wetland status option is important for many city planners and stormwater managers who want to reduce flooding and stormwater impacts in their communities.

To find native plants in your area, Audubon North Carolina provides a terrific ZIP code locator at www.nc.audubon.org where people enter their ZIP code and get not only a list of recommended bird-friendly plants native to their area, but also their nearest Audubon chapter and a list of area businesses that sell native plants. By using the ZIP code locator, gardeners, city planners, landscapers, etc. can refine the list of plants suitable for their specific area.

CWEP encourages North Carolina residents to ask their favorite garden centers to carry more native plants so they’ll become more readily available to everyone. It is also recommended to assess and learn about what is already growing in your yard as this can serve as a starting point for your native journey! The updated Audubon North Carolina list will continue to serve as a helpful resource for communities to determine which plants are native and which are not.

 

 

Maintaining Your Rain Barrel This Winter

As we come into cooler, winter months, it’s time to start thinking about any additional maintenance that needs to be done with the rain water harvesting systems you may have!

What is a rain barrel?

A rain barrel collects and stores rainwater from your roof  through a drain (gutter) system for future use such as watering lawns and gardens. Rain barrels come in a variety of sizes, but a 55 gallon container is the most common size. Rain barrels can be added to any building with gutters and downspouts. You can construct a rain garden yourself, or purchase one already made- but they all serve the same purpose: to collect rainwater and decrease the amount of stormwater runoff that leaves your property. Using rain barrels is one way to decrease your household’s impact on local waterways and to become a good steward of the local watershed.

Why use rain barrels?

The average rainfall of one inch within a 24-hour period can produce more than 700 gallons of water that runs off the roof of a typical house. Much of this water runs from gutters onto surfaces that do not allow water to soak into the ground. These are called impervious surfaces and include concrete, asphalt, and compacted soil. Even commonly used sod has a very low infiltration rate and can be a major cause of increased runoff. As it flows, runoff collects and transports soil, pet waste, salt, pesticides, fertilizer, oil and grease, litter and other pollutants. This water drains directly into nearby creeks, streams and rivers, without receiving treatment at sewage plants. Polluted stormwater contaminates local waterways. It can harm plants, fish and wildlife, while degrading the quality of water.

How to maintain your rain barrel?

Rain barrels need regular maintenance, similar to other features of your property. It is especially important to remember to drain water before every storm and to remove debris and sediment from your barrel regularly.

Do…

Check the entire system (gutters, debris filter, pipe, spittings, spigot, etc) to ensure the barrel is functioning properly.

Place gutter guards and/or screens on top of roof downspouts and on top of the barrel to prevent leaves and sediment from entering the rain barrel.

Remove leaves and other debris from the screen at the top of the barrel, the overflow pipe, and the roof gutters.

Regularly use water in your barrel between rain events to make sure there is room to collect rainwater during the next storm. Drain your rain barrel before the winter season!

If your rain barrel has a filter screen, make sure it does not have holes and securely fastened to keep mosquitoes out.

Unless your rain barrel is made out of a material specifically designed for freezing temperatures, disconnect it during the winter to avoid damage. Around thanksgiving, disconnect the rain barrel from your downspouts, empty and wash the barrel, and store it upside down. Re-connect your rain barrel to the downspouts around April Fool’s Day.

Open the rain barrel spigot if you are going to be away from your home for a long time during the holidays- make sure it will drain away from your foundation.

Clean the barrel using a non toxic substance such as vinegar to remove residue or algae.

If you find mosquitoes in your rain barrel, you may add a quarter dunk monthly depending on the size of your rain barrel.

DONT…

X Don’t leave rain in your rain barrel for long periods of time.

X Don’t drink the water in your rain barrel or use the water inside your home or for your pets. This water should be used as non-potable water.

X Don’t let kids play in or around rain barrels.

X Don’t forget to re connect your rain barrel after the winter season.

X Don’t spray the water directly on vegetables or plants, as it may contain bacteria from the roof.

X Don’t let the barrel foundation become unstable or tip over.

Who is responsible for this maintenance?

As the property owner, YOU are responsible for all maintenance of your rain barrels.

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Why is it important to maintain your rain barrel?

An unmaintained rain barrel may lead to problems including:

  • Overflow flooding and erosion near the foundation
  • Become clogged and not allow rainwater to pass into or out of the barrel
  • Become a breeding place for insects
  • Cause ice dams in the winter if not disconnected

By maintaining your rain barrel, you are doing your part to conserve rainwater and protect your local streams. You can prolong the life of your rain barrel and save money on maintenance costs by regularly maintaining and inspecting the rain barrel to ensure everything is running smoothly!

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